Ireland has an international reputation for hosting brilliant gigs, and we here look at a selection of the finest venues around the country.
We round-up Ireland’s top venues – and also identify the country’s most essential clubs.
THE BELFAST EMPIRE
42 Botanic Avenue, Belfast Tel: (028) 9024 9276 thebelfastempire.com
A converted church that now puts on music and comedy acts regularly, the Belfast Empire is one of the best venues in the city. Upcoming gigs include performances from Bristol hardcore band Idles and some of Ireland’s nest upcoming artists ROE, Munky and Susie Blue, while a recent gig from Gaeilge rap duo Kneecap proved to be one of the most riotous in Belfast in recent years. For good measure, the beautiful architecture and great balcony also give the venue a wonderfully intimate, cinema-like feel.
McHUGH’S Tel: (028) 9050 9999 mchughsbar.com
A place of historic and architectural signi cance, McHugh’s is situated in one of the oldest buildings in Belfast and is a bar/ venue beloved by both locals and anyone who nds themselves wandering in from the renovated River Lagan front. For a long time, the bar was notable mainly for good pints and its interesting history, but since being taken over by the Downeys Bar Group in 2011, the downstairs basement has become one of the cosiest spots for gigs, and the bar is noted for promoting emerging Irish acts. Wyvern Lingo, JC Stewart and Wild Youth have all played there in recent months, while Whenyoung and a string of other bands are lined up to play in the months ahead.
CONNOLLY’S OF LEAP Main Street, Leap, Co. Cork Tel: (086) 104 8377
Describing itself as “a tiny, intimate, thirdgeneration music venue where artists from all over the world come to play their most special shows”, Connolly’s Of Leap has reached mythic status over the course of its 80-odd years. After thousands of gigs, it was sold off by its owners in 2006, before a now-legendary legal challenge allowed the original founders’ grandson to buy back the venue. Connolly’s reopened to widespread joy across Cork back in 2015. Now, after three years of performances from some of the best artists from Ireland and beyond – and an IMRO award to boot – Connolly’s is rmly among Cork’s top venues.
CORK OPERA HOUSE Emmet Place, Cork
Tel: (021) 427 0022 corkoperahouse.ie
Coming into existence way back in 1855, rebuilt in the ’60s and these days a state-ofthe-art venue, Cork Opera House combines historical lustre with a vibrant contemporary sheen. An iconic structure in the People’s Republic, its impressive interior and phenomenal acoustics make each show unique. The Opera House always has an eclectic event calendar (Bon Iver and The National are just some of the names who’ve played there in recent months), and it offers everything from ballets and operas to the world’s biggest comedy and rock acts. Add in the award-winning House Cafe and two bars over two oors, and you’re all but guaranteed a great night out.
7 Douglas Street, Cork Tel: (021) 4961751 coughlans.ie
Established almost two centuries ago, Coughlan’s is steeped in history. The pub itself is a listed building, and if the stone walls of its much-loved beer garden could talk, they would con rm what we already know – that this venue delivers one of the nest nights out in the country. Having won 2016’s IMRO Best Live Music Venue Award for Munster, Coughlan’s have made an authoritative step into the gig world, and they’ve contributed in no small way to Cork’s vibrant live music scene. Upcoming gigs for the next few months include Inni-K, Mark Geary, and Lisa O’Neill.
CRANE LANE THEATRE Phoenix Street, Cork
Tel: (021) 427 8487 cranelanetheatre.ie
Part of the Cork Heritage pub trail, the Crane Lane Theatre is located in the remains of an old gentleman’s club in the centre of Cork city. An acclaimed venue, it has live music seven days a week and features everything from original folk and blues acts, to topnotch DJs, to some of the country’s most famous bands. On top of all that, they also host theatre performances, burlesque, swing, jazz and country. And that’s all before mentioning that the venue boasts its own homegrown ska & reggae festival at the end of July. For good measure, it’s also an integral location for the Cork Jazz Festival in October.
CYPRUS AVENUE Caroline Street, Cork Tel: (021) 427 6165 cyprusavenue.ie
Found just above The Old Oak, Cyprus
Avenue has been a popular spot in the city since it opened its doors back in 2003. A place where live music memories are made, it’s an integral part of Cork and the place to be if you want to see local acts, established artists and the hottest new bands on the verge of a big breakthrough. Some unmissable acts for the spring months include Wu Tang Clan’s GZA, Orla Gartland and True Tides.
LIVE AT ST. LUKE’S Liveatstlukes.com
Winners of a special commendation from Hot Press, as well as an award for IMRO Munster Live Music Venue of the Year earlier this year, Live at St. Luke’s is situated in a landmark building on Cork’s northside. It has become known as one of the city’s premier concert and cultural go-to destinations for a unique live music experience, with Little Green
Cars, Mick Flannery, Bell X1, Villagers, Lisa Hannigan, Talos and Justin Vernon (Bon Iver) all playing in recent years.
Main St, Bundoran, Co. Donegal Tel: (071) 984 1988 thechasinbull.com
After a refurbishment in the late ’90s, Bundoran bar Chasin’ Bull has gone on to establish itself as a pre-eminent live venue. A notable development found the bar teaming up with Sea Sessions for a special Live & Unsigned competition, which has seen local talent in Donegal ght it out for a spot on the bill. In January of this year, live battles commenced again, making for some ery shows. In addition, the bar has gained appreciation from an array of heavy-hitters, with Gavin James a noted fan. The bar also gained national attention when it received the award for Hot Press’ 2019 Venue of the Year.
Meenaleck, Crolly, Co. Donegal Tel: (074) 954 8143, leostavern.com
Situated along the Wild Atlantic Way, between the popular tourist destination of Mount Errigal and the sur ng havens along the Donegal coast, Tabhairne Leo is world renowned for being the musical home of musicians like Enya, Clannad and Moya Brennan (and indeed all of the Brennan family) over the years. Originally opened by Leo Brennan and his wife Marie in 1968, the bar is now under the proprietorship of youngest son Bartley, and a number of renovations in recent years have placed Leo’s rmly among the north-west’s premier venues. Framed platinum discs, famous faces and memorabilia all adorn the walls of the bar, and every night of live music is guaranteed to be a good one. AN GRIANÁN THEATRE Letterkenny, Co. Donegal Tel: (074) 912 0777 angrianan.com
Recent winners of the IMRO Award for Best Venue in Ulster, An Grianán is one of the nest in the business. Located in Letterkenny, it has spent the last 20 years becoming an integral part of the county’s thriving cultural life and a agship venue in the northwest of Ireland. Upcoming events this spring include Neil Delamere live, John Cooper Clarke, and Mick Flannery.
North Wall Quay, Dublin 1 Tel: (01) 819 8888 3arena.ie
One of the busiest, best–attended venues on the planet (it was ranked as the 15th highest attended venue in the world in 2016), 3Arena is a testament to Dublin’s insatiable appetite for big gigs. This is where legendary rock acts and superstar pop artists come to strut their stuff. Once the old Point Depot, today it’s an ultra–modern facility with world–class acoustics in the reinvigorated Docklands. Launched in 2008, we still marvel at how 3Arena can host a truly immersive show while being a 14,000–seater – and there’s literally not a bad seat in the house. As you would expect, there’s a busy and varied line– up all year round, with the likes of Olly Murs, Walking On Cars and Hugh Jackman among the heavyweight acts stopping off in 2019.
57 Abbey Street Middle, Dublin 1 Tel: (01) 877 9999 theacademydublin.com
A well-established venue on the northside, The Academy hosts major acts in an intimate setting. There have been some legendary nights here over the years, with acts as varied as Mogwai, Snoop Dogg, Foals and
Odd Future all playing memorable gigs – not to mention Azaelia Banks’ widely publicised Irish visit earlier this year! Holding just over 800, the venue boasts state-of-the-art lighting and sound. Elsewhere in the building, The Academy 2 and The Green Room are the places to be if you want a close-up view of international acts on the cusp of the big time.
BORD GÁIS ENERGY THEATRE Tel: (01) 677 7999 bordgaisenergytheatre.ie
Upon its opening in 2010, audiences instantly took to the Bord Gáis Energy Theatre – little wonder, given its impressive decor and brilliant sound. There’s always a huge variety of things going on, with BGET having played host to major international stars of music,
former presidential candidates and huge theatrical productions. A particular highlight of last year was Gilbert O’Sullivan’s careerspanning performance, while this summer, audiences can look forward to further treats, as they’ll get to experience David Gray in the esh (this April) and see The Proclaimers live.
THE GRAND SOCIAL
35 Lower Liffey Street, Dublin 1 Tel: (01) 874 0076 thegrandsocial.ie
Spreading musical joy at the foot of the Ha’Penny Bridge, The Grand Social is one of the capital’s busiest and most respected hubs of live music. Now under the management of hospitality entrepreneur Frank Gleeson, The Grand Social continues to go from strength to strength. The 300-capacity room has welcomed the likes of Primal Scream and
Jake Bugg in the past, while Rosie Carney, SOAK and even American band Wheatus have all played in recent months. The Grand Social have consistently been supporters of the home-grown independent music scene. With friendly staff and a splendid interior, it’s also worth a visit if you simply fancy a quiet drink.
THE OLYMPIA THEATRE 72 Dame Street, Dublin 2 Tel: (01) 679 3323 olympia.ie
One of the most revered venues in the capital, over the years the Olympia has hosted the iconic likes of – deep breath! – James Brown, David Bowie, Radiohead, Blur, PJ Harvey, Suede, Manic Street Preachers, The Pixies, Queens Of The Stone Age and much, much more. Among the standout moments in 2018, meanwhile, were Hozier’s triumphant return and Sigrid’s sold out performance. A wonderfully atmospheric room with impeccable sound, the Olympia is also a second home for some of Ireland’s top artists, with the likes of Snow Patrol, Bell X1 and The Coronas all turning in superb performances over the years.
THE SUGAR CLUB
8 Leeson Street Lower, Dublin 2 thesugarclub.com
Tel: (01) 678 7188
The Sugar Club opened its doors as one of Dublin’s premier music venue in 1999. Formerly the Irish Film Theatre, the venue re ects its cinema roots with plush tiered banquet seating and a large screen available for projections. The club has now spent two decades consolidating its place in Dublin nightlife by hosting a multitude of live music events, theatre productions, movie screenings, live podcast shows, panel discussions, conferences, art exhibitions, science shows, private parties, and more. It’s no wonder that it recently took home two IMRO Awards, for National Live Music Venue (as voted for by the public) and Dublin Live Music Venue of the Year.
86 Thomas Street, Dublin 8
Tel: (085) 203 9047 facebook.com/thomashousedublin
If it’s big name artists in a unique and unusual setting that you like, Thomas House is the place for you. A favourite haunt of the Queen Of Rockabilly herself, Imelda May, the venue regularly hosts acts that specialise in everything from punk to old-fashioned R&B. Not only an alternative music haven, Thomas House also proclaims itself “the nest dive bar in Dublin city”. A sanctuary for loveable miscreants, if you’re a punk, rockabilly lover, skinhead, metaller or plain old indie type, you’ll have a thoroughly enjoyable time. Independently owned and run by two local promoters and DJs, it carries a fantastic range of pints and has DJs every night of the week.
58-59 Thomas Street, Dublin 8 Tel: (01) 775 5800 vicarstreet.com
Another of Dublin’s most beloved venues, over the years Vicar Street has hosted an eclectic array of top-notch acts, including Kendrick Lamar, Slash, Girl Band, Slint, Sonic Youth, Hope Sandoval & The Warm Inventions, Panda Bear, John Carpenter and many more. As lauded as ever – it scooped the Hot Press Live Venue of the Year gong at the 2018 IMRO Awards – Vicar Street is also a hugely popular comedy venue, with the likes of Dara O Briain, Tommy Tiernan, Dylan Moran and Stewart Lee among those to have turned in memorable performances. There’s another raft of excellent shows on the way in 2019, with highlights including Jamie Lawson, Dropkick Murphys and Damien Dempsey.
25 Wexford Street, Dublin 2
Tel: (01) 478 0766 whelanslive.com
Over quarter-of-a-century old, Whelan’s remains at the heart of the Irish live scene. Its iconic status long assured, the Wexford Street venue continues to go from strength to strength, and captured the Dublin Live Music Venue of the Year gong at the 2018 IMRO Awards. With great sound and a warm atmosphere, there are few better places to catch an act about to go interstellar. The venue excels at spotting future heavyhitters – the likes of Jeff Buckley, Nick Cave and a fresh-faced Arctic Monkeys have all played. In addition, a host of Ireland’s biggest names, Damien Rice and Glen Hansard included, got their start here. Indeed, a young Ed Sheeran caught Rice back in the day – and it made such an impression that he picked Whelan’s as the place for his superb VH1: Storytellers special.
THE WORKMAN’S CLUB 10 Wellington Quay
Tel: (01) 670 6692 theworkmansclub.com
Something of a HQ for pubgoers and musicians alike, the Workman’s Club restored the decor of an old neglected working man’s club to create a totally 21st century venue. Priding itself on its ability to mix big name acts – like Nathaniel Rateliff and Beach Slang – with homegrown heroes such as Altered House and The Fountains, the venue’s intimate feel regularly makes for barnstorming shows. In 2017, the awesome performance by London art-pop contenders HMLTD was a major highlight. Upcoming highlights this year, meanwhile, include Thanks Brother, Jack O’Rourke and Sons Of The East.
14 Dominick Street Upper, Galway Tel: (091) 583 397 monroes.ie
One of the best in the west, and located above one of the most beloved watering holes in the city, Monroe’s Live hosts a gig every night of the week. Pretty much the entire spectrum of modern music is covered by this multi-purpose club. Celebrating its eighth birthday this year, Monroe’s Live is part of the Monroe’s tavern business that has been going strong for over half-a-century. From expert cover acts to original artists, there’s something for everyone, with their trad nights in particular enjoying plenty of praise. The main room boasts a top-end sound and lighting set-up, while the Back Stage bar offers a cosy and intimate spot for acoustic sessions.
Lower Dominick Street, Galway Tel: (091) 586 540 roisindubh.net
What Whelan’s is to the east, Roisin Dubh is to the west. A chief hang–out for musicians in Connacht, it has become one of Ireland’s best–loved venues over the course of two decades. Showing the esteem in which it continues to be held, back in 2018, the Roisin Dubh picked up IMRO’s Live Music Venue of the Year Award for Connacht. With their bookers continually having their ngers on the pulse, you only get the cream of the crop gracing the Roisin Dubh stage. From rising Irish bands to A–list international artists like Ed Sheeran, they embrace acts at every level, so long as they have the chops to put on a terri c show.
K E R RY
Muckross Road, Killarney, Co. Kerry Tel: (064) 667 1555 inec.ie
A stronghold of live entertainment in Munster, Ireland’s National Events Centre has hosted numerous world class acts since opening in 2000. With sell-out performances by artists ranging from Niall Horan to Hozier, the INEC is now of cially recognised as one of the country’s leading venues. Last year, it received a special commendation from Hot Press as ‘Reader’s Choice Live Venue of the Year 2018’. Able to accommodate between 200 and 4,000 people, switching effortlessly from the intimate to the arena–sized, the likes of The Fureys, Tears For Fears and Nathan Carter have all performed in recent months. Going back a few decades further, dance icons The Prodigy played the old Ballroom before the big time beckoned, so you can’t deny the venue’s pedigree!
Goat Street, Upper Main Street, Dingle Tel: (066) 915 2401 facebook.com/McCarthysdingle
When you think of Dingle, you think of great sight-seeing and quiet evenings in cosy pubs (and possibly dolphins!), but McCarthy’s is a thriving venue that brings some of the country’s nest musicians to the famous Kerry town. Over the past few years, the likes of The Frames, The Coronas and Mick Flannery have all pitched up for wonderfully snug and atmospheric shows, so it really is a chance to see top artists in a totally unique environment. With a capacity of just 60 people, the only problem might be nding a seat!
MIKE THE PIES
28 Patrick Street, Listowel, Co. Kerry Tel: (068) 21259 mikethepies.com
Don’t be misled by the unassuming, though hardly subtle, green, white and gold façade of this homely small town pub; Mike the Pies has put out the welcome mat to some of Ireland’s most well known artists. Recent acts to have graced the stage and enjoyed the lively atmosphere include Fangclub, Fontaines DC and Danny O’Reilly (of Coronas fame). With an ability to draw big names of that calibre, it’s no surprise that Mike The Pies won the IMRO National Live Venue of the Year 2017 Award. The bar has been in the O’Connor family for over a century, but it was only in the past three years that the owners decided to focus their attention on live music, with a Frank & Walters gig getting the ball rolling. It’s been hugely successful ever since…
Langton House Hotel, 69 John Street, Kilkenny
Tel: (056) 776 5133 set.ie
Eight years on the go, the Set Theatre has rmly established itself as a brilliant, state-of-the-art venue. A beautiful building – designed by David Collins in London – it regularly hosts lms, music and comedy, and gets thoroughly involved in town affairs when the Rhythm & Roots, Cat Laughs, Tradfest and Kilkenny Arts festivals kick into life.
KAVANAGH’S BAR & VENUE
28 Main Street, Moneyballytyrrell, Portlaoise Tel: (057) 862 1744 kavanaghsportlaoise.com
Established in 1869, Kavanagh’s is the oldest family-run pub in Portlaoise. That’s a sizeable achievement in itself, but what has set Kavanagh’s apart in recent years is its renewed commitment to putting on unique live music nights. Both of Kavanagh’s bars have been refurbished in recent years, with the upstairs area being transformed into a truly outstanding live music venue. Recent times have seen Irish household names such as Neil Delamere, True Tides and Le Galaxie take to the stage, with more exciting gigs to come in the very near future – including a special performance from Alabama 3 this April.
4 Dock Road, Limerick Tel: (061) 314 483 dolans.ie
In the game for over two decades, Dolan’s reputation continues to grow as the acts they welcome get bigger and bigger. Comprising an Irish pub and restaurant, three venues and two outdoor areas, it is run by owners Mick and Valerie, with the whole family helping out. Walking On Cars and Villagers are Irish acts who have had memorable shows, while there have also been sets from international heavy-hitters like Kasabian and Mumford & Sons.
G Tel: (042) 935 2697 spiritstore.ie
Making things gloriously loud in Louth, the Spirit Store is the key venue in Dundalk and proof positive that there’s plenty going on between the big cities of Dublin and Belfast. If an Irish artist is hitting the road, you can be sure the Spirit Store will gure highly in their plans. The Dundalk crowds conjure up a great atmosphere every single show, with acts like Kaz Hawkins and Luka Bloom among those to look forward to in the months ahead. The Spirit Store also hosted a particularly memorable gig when Hozier and Ellie Goulding pitched up at the quayside venue, for a surprise performance as part of Guinness Amplify.
5TH ON TEELING
5 Teeling Street, Sligo Tel: (071) 914 6842 5thonteeling.com
A jewel in the north-west for several years now, 5th On Teeling has been bringing some extremely ne sounds to Sligo. As well as playing host to an eclectic variety of DJ sets and a monthly comedy club, it books some of the best musical acts around, with turns from the likes of The Academic and The
Hot Sprockets in previous years. Its impact was recognised at the 2015 IMRO Live Music Venue Awards, when it received a Special Award from Hot Press editor Niall Stokes, for its contribution to the development of the north-west scene.
THE NATIONAL OPERA HOUSE High Street, Wexford
Tel: (053) 912 2144 nationaloperahouse.ie
The National Opera House was opened in 2008 to provide a suitable home for Wexford’s historic and award-winning Wexford Festival Opera. Since then, the stylish venue has been designated Ireland’s National Opera House by the Minister of Arts in 2014, and gone on to take the main prize at 2017’s IMRO Live Venue Of The Year Awards. The National Opera House contains two performances spaces: the 771-seat O’Reilly Theatre, which can be extended to an 855-seat capacity; and the versatile 172-seat Jerome Hynes Theatre, along with numerous meeting and hospitality facilities and bars. As well as providing a home to the high arts, the National Opera House also features contemporary music and comedy.
WEXFORD ARTS CENTRE Cornmarket, Ferrybank South, Wexford Tel: (053) 912 3764 Wexfordartscentre.ie
Hosting everything from exhibitions, book launches, children’s workshops and drama, to music, public talks, cabaret and puppet shows, Wexford Arts Centre offers a remarkably eclectic array of events.
For good measure, there’s also cinema, photography, children’s theatre events, improv and summer schools, with gallery space available to rent too. In addition, the centre supports education programmes in schools, as well as many other off-site projects.